Angry Doctor

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Quackbuster: Singapore 2

The proposed "Health Products Bill" got a mention in the news today.

Pills to undergo health check
Law proposed to regulate health supplements here

In a move that should ensure the Slim 10 episode never happens again, Parliament has tabled a Bill to tighten the regulations for health products.

The Bill proposes that all health products be evaluated and entered into a central registry, under categories determined by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

If enacted, the law will also require manufacturers to list the active ingredients used in the manufacture of health products, so that banned substances such as Fenfluramine — the banned appetite suppressant in Slim 10 pills that, in 2002, caused actress Andrea de Cruz's liver to fail and killed logistics executive Ms Selvarani Raja — does not slip into the market.

The move is a long-anticipated one, with calls over the years for tighter screening of nutritional supplements flooding the Singapore market.

Currently, such supplements can be imported and sold without a licence, and they are not subject to pre-market approval. Dealers are held fully responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of their products.

While the HSA has said it does random sampling of products in the market to screen for harmful contaminants, the system is basically caveat emptor — buyer beware — with consumers urged to exercise "caution and discretion" in their consumption of health products and with potentially misleading advertisements.

But if the law now being proposed is enacted, advertising will come under greater scrutiny, with restrictions on false and misleading advertising.

The Bill also requires all manufacturers, importers and wholesalers of health products to be licensed and accountable for the import or sale of health products that have been adulterated, counterfeit, unwholesome or tampered with.

The HSA had sought public feedback on the proposed Bill back in June 2005, acknowledging that the current regulatory controls were "fragmented", "confusing" and "difficult to understand".

"The overlapping of controls in some areas sometimes made compliance with the legal requirements unnecessarily complicated," said the authority.

The Health Products Bill proposes bringing the Medicines Act, the Poisons Act, the Sale of Drugs Act and the Medicines (Advertisement and Sale) Act under one framework.

There will also be scope to include additional regulations for medical devices. In addition, current penalties for non-compliance, which the HSA described as "outdated" and not reflective of "current economic realities" in many cases, will be reviewed.

The second mention of the Bill is scheduled for the middle of next month.

You can read the proposed bill (all 91 pages of it) in its entirety here.

It will take angry doc a while to go through all of that, but it does look good on first pass. However, angry doc suspects that the very people the Bill is meant to protect may not appreciate it at all.

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  • While we argue about whether to ban trans fats or not! haha!

    Actually I agree with Halimah Yacob. Should we wait till Singapore's trans fat consumption reaches levels of the US and Canada before we ban? Or should we ban now while it is not so high?

    I guess it will harm many businesses and that's bad for Singapore's economy. And what's bad for Singapore's economy is bad for Singaporeans.

    So it is good not to ban trans fats. :)

    What about this health supplements bill? I tried to load the link but cannot leh. Maybe too big. Is it bad for businesses? Shouldn't be right?

    By Blogger Dr Oz bloke, At January 25, 2007 3:26 pm  

  • The link works, but it's a pdf file and may take a while to load.

    Interesting comparison between trans fat and Health Products. Indeed trans fat may be the more sinister of the two as it is probably more widespread, more proven to be harmful, and less visible.

    By Blogger angry doc, At January 25, 2007 9:50 pm  

  • "Indeed trans fat may be the more sinister of the two as it is probably more widespread, more proven to be harmful, and less visible."

    You can also read it as "Indeed trans fat may be the more significant of the two as it is probably more widespread in existing business, more crucial to the economy and less visible to the public"

    By Blogger Dr Oz bloke, At January 26, 2007 1:54 pm  

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